A few months ago we created a video with the Lawson family to help introduce kids to the work of International Justice Mission in Ghana, where they hope to end child slavery in the fishing industry on Lake Volta.
IJM’s work in Ghana is very new – they are just now forming an office in Accra, following an investigation led by “V” earlier this year. “V” (psuedonym for his protection) wrote up a report of his investigation, and IJM shared it with supporters through a mailing and on their website in May or June. This report is what influenced Heidi Kellar and me to focus our book club discussions on IJM’s work to end child slavery on Lake Volta. The report is what gave me the idea to create a children’s video and write a script to help our kids and others understand the issue better, which gave Julianna Lawson the idea of using shadow puppet theater in our video. The report is also what Heidi used to lead an activity at the boys’ book club, in which she had us pretend to be Justice Fighters like V, and role play the arduous (and sometimes boring) tasks of an IJM investigation, including rowing boats around the lake, traveling over bumpy roads to villages, and sitting still and watching for hours at a time. She explained to the boys that the work of justice can be dangerous, uncomfortable, long, and boring.
Well, that was that. It was a great summer – the video worked beautifully as an educational tool for families, and we ended up raising about $1,400 for IJM to help them open their office in Ghana. Summer ended, fall started and we were off to other responsibilities.
Then, God surprised us. Heidi went to a friend’s baby shower, and who would happen to be at that baby shower, but a woman from Washington, DC who works at IJM, in V’s office! She encouraged our kids to write letters to V and his partner to let them know we were praying for them and supported them. Heidi and I got our kids together, showed them the video again, handed them paper, pencils, and a word bank (“Ghana”, “slaves”, “Lake Volta” – yes, we are educators), and they got to work.
We mailed the letters, some photos, and a link to our video to V’s office. The kids got tired of asking when V would write back approximately 48 hours after mailing the envelope.
A little over a week later, I got a message from IJM’s Global PR Director, Mindy Mizell – they had watched our video, shown it to their headquarters office during their daily prayer gathering, and would like to meet the Kid Abolitionists. Could we set up a Skype interview? Uh…YES!
Julianna and I scrambled to set up a time that would work on short notice – IJM wanted the interview complete in time to promote it on Anti-Slavery Day, which was just a few days away, on October 18th. We gathered the kids together (minus the Kellar boys, unfortunately), and fired up Skype. Mindy coached us through a few particulars and started recording. First question, we froze up, started again, and then the three oldest Lawson children answered the questions with poise and intelligence. A couple minutes into the interview, Mindy surprised us with a special visitor on her side. We could see a man, visible from the shoulders down, holding a shuffle of papers. It was V!
He thanked the kids for their letters, the inspiring video, and their efforts to help IJM end slavery in Ghana. He answered a few of the questions from the letters while I sat there grinning like a teenager with a backstage pass to her favorite band.
You can read the article about the kids on IJM’s newsroom website here: “Kids in Portland Meet their Hero on Anti-Slavery Day”.
And a video of our Skype interview with Mindy and V here:
I just can’t even believe this happened. Four years ago, with a breaking heart, I learned about IJM and the gravity and extent of modern day slavery. I called out to God, asking him to show us how to join this work of justice. I never would have imagined how he would answer that prayer and allow our little family and friends to meet these people who inspire us so greatly.
I encourage you to read this updated report by V – his account of witnessing child slavery on Lake Volta: “What Broke My Heart at Lake Volta”.
At the end of our interview, I babbled something to V about him being our hero. Now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure I pictured his face like this:
Actually, I didn’t picture his face at all, but I am down-on-my-knees thankful for heroes like V who serve faithfully without any recognition in dangerous assignments for the benefit of the poor and powerless. We don’t know V’s full name and we don’t know the names of the boys on Lake Volta who are waiting for their freedom. But God does. And he chooses to use V and Mindy and others at IJM, and he chose to use us last week to further his purposes in Ghana.
C.S. Lewis said, “I have received no assurance that anything we can do can eradicate suffering. I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.” (The Weight of Glory)
Whether we tackle the evil in front of us with shadow puppet theater, letters slipped into an envelope, or a donation to an organization that is working quietly away at bringing children out of violence and poverty, we can make a difference. I think that is what I learned this week, and I hope those kids sitting in front of a computer screen learned it too.
IJM asked us to re-open our summer book club campaign. If you want to support IJM’s work to end slavery at Lake Volta, you may contribute here: 2014 Summer Book Club Justice Campaign.